Photography retail is dependent upon an ever-changing technology, requiring store owners to stay up to speed on the latest trends in products and services. But some are missing an opportunity to increase sales by ensuring that their store experience keeps pace with the technological innovation in the photography retail category. After all, customers expect the retail environment and the experience to be as advanced as the camera system they’re about to buy.
You just have to look around and see how national retailers are continually making themselves over, or launching new brands altogether, to know having a store experience that’s current is a driving force for staying relevant in the competitive retail category. From the tween brand Limited Too who changed their name and morphed into Justice, to Williams-Sonoma, which launched Williams-Sonoma Home store brand, to the Disney Stores, who are completely renovating all 300+ of their locations, remodels are a great way to recapture the public’s imagination with your concept.
Sometimes remodels are a necessity, as it was for Lakeside Camera Photoworks who sustained major damage from Hurricane Katrina. Other times it’s simply the time to update a store that has outgrown its look and feel. We update furniture, wallpaper, paint colors and everything else in our homes as they become outdated or worn, and you should think of your store in the same way.
For Camera Stop located outside of Dallas, owner Jeff Goulston, a former computer engineer, just started out “slapping some paint on the wall, putting up some slat wall and hanging out the sign that said ‘open for business.’” Goulston expanded and found himself in two storefronts—one for equipment and one for service—and his desire to remodel turned into taking over a new space big enough to combine both the equipment and service sides of his business. Call it a remodel of the biggest kind.
Regardless of whether you’re looking for a new space, or just an update to your existing space, there are a number of benefits from remodeling your store, and several things to take into consideration.
You should consider a cost/benefit analysis to determine whether a remodel makes financial sense. As remodels can run the gamut from a simple fresh coat of paint to the complex gutting of the store, you have to assess what you can afford, and how much you believe you’ll be able to increase sales as a result.
Chances are you’ll want to do a little more than just a coat of paint. So get out there and study what’s going on. Goulston not only looked at other photography retailers but the retail landscape in general to learn what was new, what was hot and what was different and interesting. He then applied those elements to his store.
Putting together a game plan for the remodel makes sense. Leave nothing to chance. And hiring a retail design/architecture firm that focuses on smaller retailers can help maximize your store’s productivity and be worth every penny. For Goulston, he wasn’t a retailer when he started his business, but he learned a lot over time so he was able to articulate his goals, then work with a design firm to turn his vision into reality.
Maximizing the Store Experience
Rethinking how you want to do business is critical to a successful remodel. From displays to technology, the lighting to music and more, every aspect is important. For anyone who’s taken on a house or even a room remodel, you’re familiar with the adage that one thing invariably leads to another. So if you’re going to undertake a remodel, don’t do it halfway or you’ll be disappointed.
Knowing your audience and tailoring the remodel to their tastes is ultimately what will drive success. The old Camera Stop was a bit generic with its white walls, fluorescent lighting and carpeted floors. In his remodel, Goulston took the store experience up a whole new level. “Since women are the prime clientele, we picked colors and tones women like,” said Goulston. “We put in dropped ceilings with curves, and mixed up the lighting by adding track lighting to highlight products and warm the environment up a bit. Even the floors are tan and brown. It’s a very comfortable environment.”
In terms of displays, Goulston found in his old store that he wasn’t able to show all the equipment he wanted, simply because he had to work with hooks on pegboard or slat walls. The advantage of working with a design firm was that they were able to plan the store to take every single product into consideration and where and how it would be displayed. Out of that process of creating a planogram came a variety of floor fixtures, slat walls and shelving that allowed the store to be a much more interesting, dynamic place to shop.
Drawing people into the new store came out of planning the inside of the store. With 50 linear feet of windows, Goulston didn’t want to give up valuable wall space. So they built a false wall and covered up a majority of the windows. Not only did the store pick up those 50 linear feet of valuable display space, but now there are areas to create window displays that didn’t exist in the old store, providing a double win.
Goulston even thought about electrical and Ethernet ports, which always seemed to be in short supply in his old store. He took it to the extreme, figuring the added cost would be minimal to wire the store when it was bare. Now, as displays are moved around, and the need for power or Internet access changes, Goulston suspects he’ll never be short again.
Remodel Results in Sales Increases
Goulston attributes an 11% sales gain in 2009 vs. 2008 to the move and remodel. For retailers, 2009 was an incredibly tough year. To have an increase in business over 2008 makes Goulston proud. “There couldn’t have been a worse time to undertake a remodel,” Goulston said. But the benefits of doing so are really paying off, and Goulston expects his sales to keep growing in 2010 and beyond.